India's Champoor power project, a terrible scandal, say activists
[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 May 2008, 19:44 GMT]
While India's National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC) Chairman Ram Charan Sharma told the media that the 500-MW thermal power project in Champoor in Trincomalee district will be one of the largest infrastructure investment in Sri Lanka, residents and rights activists complained that the Indian decision to pick Champoor for the power project had added to the Champoor displaced people's misery. "I have interacted with Indian diplomats (in Colombo) and am certain they are very sensitive to the human rights and humanitarian issues. But if India is involved in this, it will be a grave disappointment, even a terrible scandal," the activist told the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), the agency reported.
"The Indian project that seeks to provide electricity to Sri Lanka's war-hit east has run into rough weather amid allegations that it will displace Tamils who have lived in the area for generations," IANS agency reported. "India is getting involved in a highly controversial project. The rights of the people are not being respected," the report quoted a rights activist as saying.
Sections of the Sri Lankan establishment are advocating to shift the proposed coal power plant from the location identified earlier in 2002 near Veppankuda, above the Marble Beach, to Sampoor region on the opposite side of Koddiyar Bay.
Champoor is a large and populous fishing village overlooking Trincomalee port. The Sri Lanka military seized Champoor from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after heavy fighting that left at least 350 civilians dead and hundreds injured and depopulated the area. Colombo declared Champoor a High Security Zone, making it out of bounds for civilians, most of whom now live in refugee camps in the neighbouring district of Batticaloa.
"Indian arguments that the coal-based plant is meant to benefit locals in Trincomalee are having no effect on rights activists and the thousands who fled the region after fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the military," the report said.
A joint venture company of the NTPC and the Ceylon Electricity Board will implement the project spread over 500 acres of land. A jetty is also to come up in Champoor, according to the current plan.
"The NTPC project will affect a large number of people," the report quoted K. Thurairatnasingham, a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP from Trincomalee, as saying. "We have conveyed our feelings to Indian diplomats. Our people cannot accept this," he added. "This is where our forefathers lived. It is the only land in a largely dry area with water resources suitable for cultivation.We are not saying we don't want the project. But why build it in an area that will force Tamils to give up for ever their ancestral land?" the MP asked, according to the IANS report.